Tag Archives: dogs

Reunited with Horses

For two of my weeks on the island of Langkawi, I took time out from volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter and headed over to Island Horses to volunteer there.  I had originally planned to volunteer there longer, but due to an unforseen event, was only able to do two weeks.

I’ve been a rider for most of my life but hadn’t been near any horses for over a year at this point, so needless to say I was so thrilled to finally be back in their presence.  Perhaps only horse people will be able to relate to that the smell in the air when approaching a horse facility.  It is perhaps my favorite in the world as it smells like coming home to me!

Island Horses is a working stable with three main functions.  First, they train endurance horses and have a team that competes worldwide (in fact during my time there the owner and his son were in Argentina for a competition!).  Second, it’s a breeding facility for Malay Arabian horses and finally, they offer jungle and beach riding tours for tourists.  They are very safety conscientious when it comes to taking riding tours out, which of course is very important!

As a volunteer at Island Horses a bed and bathroom were provided (shared with staff) but meals were not.  However the GeoPark (where the cable car was located) and the seven falls waterfall national park, were only a 5 to 10 minute walk away.  There, a variety of foods could be found all reasonably priced.

As a volunteer I was assigned 5 horses to care for and an aisle of horses to water 3 times a day.  Our days started at 7am until 7pm with a lunch break from 12-2:30pm.  All that was expected of me was to groom each horse twice a day as the stalls and feeding were done by the staff.  While I did spend my first day simply grooming my five horses (essentially with a fine-toothed comb so I could get to know every inch of them to get a baseline for any changes during my time there), three days didn’t even pass before I’d incorporated other little tasks to my daily duties.

I will admit that the first several days there were tough for me.  And not for any other reason except perhaps a bit of cultural differences and the natural environment.  The way I’d been raised to care for horses was not the standard I’d found there.  I’m not saying the horses were not cared for, because they were all fed quite well and watered appropriately and such, but other things in my opinion, were not up to snuff.  However, what made it extra tough was the natural terrain and weather of the environment, which made caring for horses in general that much harder.  Wounds don’t heal as fast as they would in dry environments and keeping stalls dry is equally difficult during the wet season.

As someone who was simply coming and going in only two weeks, my business there wasn’t to complain and point out all the things I thought weren’t right, but rather to simply lend my hand and do my job (so to speak).  So it was by the third day I’d made up my mind to take care of my five horses as if they were personally mine.  On top of daily grooming I also began to take care of cleaning their stalls, treating their boo-boos and cleaning equipment used for them.

In the short time I was there, I rode twice on the beach and through the jungle.  It was such an amazing feeling to be back on a horse!!  Words simply can’t express the exhilaration I felt!  It was also funny to me because while I’d been used to riding draft horses and having to physically put in a lot of work just to make them and KEEP them moving forward, I’d almost forgotten how easy it is to get Arabians to move forward, lol!!  And while I would have loved to have ridden more, since I was young it’s been instilled in me that as horse people our primary concern is for the care of the horse.  Riding is a privilege and comes only after all the needs of the animal are met.

The facility itself is undeniably in one of the most beautiful locations on the island.  Surrounded by lush jungle, nestled at the base of one of the mountain ranges and only minutes from the beach, I certainly got spoiled living in such a beautiful environment.  The wildlife in the area was also fantastic.  Aside from the horses, cats and dogs at the stables we would also be frequently visited  by deer, two types of monkeys, water monitors, bats, snakes, wild boar and stray dogs!  It practically was its own zoo!

While I was only there two weeks, leaving was just as hard as if I’d been there years.  Leaving the animals of course was the hardest part for me but also leaving Amirah (my staff roommate) and Shanto (a 12 year volunteer) was very tough.  Even in that short time I felt like part of the family and welcomed in ways I hadn’t imagined.  I think of them daily, as I do my family at the Bon Ton shelter, and look forward to being able to return there again.

On to The Majesty of Kuala Lumpur

Back to Malaysia

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Bon Ton Animal Shelter

The Bon Ton animal shelter, located on the Duty-free island of Langkawi originally started in Kuala Lumpur over 20 years ago.  There, a restaurant/hotel owner and animal lover began a shelter and several years later moved the operation to Langkawi.  The shelter consists of several parts.  One is the retirement ward where over 60 dogs spend the remainder of their lives in spacious yards or in the owners home and are tended to carefully and lovingly by full-time staff members.  The second part is located at a different location near the base of the mountains of Langkawi where over 70 dogs are looked after by full-time staff.  The last is also located at the Bon Ton Resort and they are the “regular” shelter dogs.  Over 50 young to middle-aged (or even old dogs who think they are still young such as 16-year old Nemo) dogs call the shelter home and are walked daily by volunteers and have play-time or social time in the afternoons.

The volunteer program is organized by another avid animal lover volunteer of over 10 years, Dorothy, who is a resident of Langkawi and joins in on the morning walks daily.  There are of course other staff members who assist in the cleaning and general caring of the shelter dogs and over 100 cats there as well.  For with so many animals, it would be impossible not to have staff on board!!  While volunteers help with walking dogs, feeding, general cleaning when needed and play time in the afternoons, the staff concentrate on deep cleaning the dog and cat shelters daily and assist in the clinic when a vet is present.

Though I’d only really had one other experience volunteering at an animal shelter, I will say that volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter, well it was like the gold standard or 5 star of shelters!  Why do I say this?  Simply because of the standards of care given by the staff to the animals and the way that volunteers are treated.  Accommodations are provided for, daily meals are taken care of, and even one meal weekly from the restaurant is provided!  And let me tell you, the Bon Ton restaurant food is absolutely delicious!!!  To this day I’m still missing their steaks with mashed potatoes in balsamic gravy!!  Accommodations included a bed, private bath with HOT water (almost fainted hearing this), TV (what???) with a DVD player (pinch me now!!).

But of course all this came with actual work.  Six days a week, from 9:45am (sometimes 9am depending on need) until 6pm (lunch break of course provided) we worked with the dogs and cats.  Feeding, walking, cleaning, playing, bathing, constructing new shelter bits, raking yards, putting up new fencing, etc, etc.  The work in my opinion wasn’t difficult, and because I was there for the animals, it didn’t really matter to me how long the work days were.  In fact, there were several times that I or other volunteers worked well past the 6pm mark, but it was all for the animals.  And as animal lovers know, animals know no time!  They are 24/7 responsibilities who in return offer the most amazing and purest of love.

I ended up staying at the Bon Ton Animal Shelter for about 2 months in total.  During my time there I also learned about a horse stable on the island that also allowed volunteers to come help, so I ended up moving there for a couple of weeks, then returned to Bon Ton for the last few days I was on the island.  Then sadly had to say my goodbyes for good and had to head to Kuala Lumpur, then out of the country as my 3 month visa was coming close to expiring.

Volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter was an amazing experience.  The loving care provided to the animals by staff and volunteers made the experience so very rich.  I look forward to returning there when time permits and miss the animals (and people of course who I think of as family) daily!!

On to Reunited with Horses

Back to Malaysia

Duty-Free Langkawi

I finally left Thailand via ferry from the Tammalang Port at Satun and about an hour and a half later was greeted into the Northernmost island in the Andaman sea of Malaysia, called Langkawi.  After clearing customs I grabbed a cab for the T-Star hotel in Cenang.

During the 40 minute cab ride my driver informed me of some interesting facts about the island.  According to him,  Langkawi was barely visible on the map of tourism and tourists until the 70’s when the Prime Minister declared the island Duty Free.  Since then, Langkawi has skyrocketed as a hot spot for tourism (loads of tours from feeding eagles to snorkeling are available) and shopaholics looking for the best deals on booze, makeup, chocolate, perfumes, etc.

Another tidbit he shared with me was that the population on the island was about 85% muslim, 10% Indian and the rest a mix of Chinese, Expats, and Europeans.  After having been in Thailand for so long with diversity in foods only being available in larger cities, Langkawi was a breath of fresh air on that front with a large variety of cuisine choices to choose from.  Of course they also had traditional Malay foods, which consist of rice, fish, chicken and lots of vegetable varieties.  The foods are generally a bit spicy (though not as spicy as Thailand) and their national meal is Nasi Lemak, which is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf 🙂

I went to Langkawi with one specific goal in mind: to check out the animal shelter on the island and see if they needed volunteers.  T-Star, my chosen hotel for the week was an absolutely delightful place and only about a 45 minute walk to the shelter.  Every day, at least twice a day troops of the macaque monkeys came through the hotel leaping from balcony to balcony in search of any sort of food.  There were signs everywhere to beware of things left on the balcony as they may be snatched and for good reason because those little guys were fast in snatching things!!

The day after I arrived I started my wander toward the animal shelter to check it out.  I was a bit confused about it at first because online they seemed somehow located at a hotel resort, which didn’t make a ton of sense until I got there and learned the story.  The Bon Ton resort, located next to The Temple Tree hotel is owned and operated by an animal lover.  The owner started both hotels and the restaurants attached to them and uses moneys from the hotel and restaurant to fund an animal shelter located just in front of the resorts.  There, over 100 dogs and over 100 cats find shelter and a loving home.

I arrived a little after 10am and chatted with the volunteer coordinator, Dorothy, and began the next day doing half days at first (since I was walking 5 km there and 5 back daily).  Morning activities consisted of taking over 50 dogs for walks around the hotel grounds with fellow volunteers, then picking up after them and finally serving them lunch, which consisted of rice cooked in beef broth with chunks of beef and a variety of vegetables, all prepared FRESH daily by the restaurant chef!!

So for the first week I walked to and from my hotel to help walk the doggies in the morning, then spent my afternoons trying out new restaurants in the area and walking along the Cenang beach.  As my week started to come to an end, it turned out that one of the Nepalese workers for the shelter had to go back home, so I was asked if I wanted to stay in one of the volunteer rooms so I could help with full-day activities along with the other 2 full-time volunteers.  I agreed and moved in to my new accommodations (complete with 2 yard dogs, John and Mummy) and began full day activities.  Of course, though I’d only planned at first for a month there, it quickly turned into two:)

On to Bon Ton Animal Shelter

Back to Malaysia

Wat A Cave!

While there are several fabulous things to do while in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand, perhaps one of my favorites was visiting the Ao Noi Wat.  ‘Wat’ simply means Temple, but what sets this one apart from every other Wat I’ve been to so far is that it is located inside a cave!  In college I took a biospeleology class in college where we went all over the state of Texas and even into Mexico to different caves and the idea of finally getting back into one was thrilling!  Mind you, this particular cave wasn’t one that required to wiggle on your belly to get from one point to the next as it is quite large and easy to simply walk through.

I headed out about mid-day on my own to track down the Ao Noi Wat with a bottle of water, my camera and favorite all around walking shoes, my Keens.  The walk there really wasn’t all that interesting per se, since it literally was just walking along the side of the road.  The views however became more and more breathtaking as I got closer to the Khao Ta Lai Forest Park.  The beauty of the hills jutting out from the ocean was so beautiful and picturesque, I had a hard time continuing without stopping to take a gazillion pictures!

I walked past the over 150 year old fishing community of Ban Ta Monglai toward the Ao Noi community as the sun beat down on my skin making me wish for shade!  I knew I was going in the right direction, but I also knew the Wat was located in a cave, so some form of hill had to be ahead.  But as I walked past the fishing community and the Khao Ta Lai Forest Park, the hills disappeared.  The only ones visible were about 11 kilometers away in Myanmar (Burma)!  I continued to trek on however stopping every now and again to ask locals which direction the Wat was, and armed with the confidence that even they were still pointing for me to continue on, I figured some hill structure would have to show up soon.

As I didn’t have a watch with me, I honestly don’t even know how much further on I walked until some hills became visible again and until I finally hit Wat Ao Noi.  I was drenched in sweat from the sun and had been guzzling water as if my life depended on it (which let’s face it, it does!).  Finally I arrived at the base of the Wat and started an over 300 step climb to the entrance of the Wat.  The views of the town and beaches as I climbed were spectacular!  I will say that while most of the stairs up were in good condition, there were a few bits that had me worried as they were split in half and sliding toward the edge of the cliff.  Up and up I went until finally coming to the entrance where a box with 2 rechargeable flashlights sat.  A little sign said they were for the borrowing, and just to plug them back in when done.

Of course, the one thing I SHOULD have thought and known to bring (a flashlight) I didn’t, so it was really quite nice that they provided them there :).  I headed into the cave armed with my flashlight out of the sun and into the darkness.  I was literally the only person in the Wat and I won’t lie, at some points little bits and flashes of the movie “The Descent” went through my mind that at times freaked me out.  An especially heart-pounding moment was after I left the only naturally lit area of the cave and headed to the first reclining Buddha.  As I grappled with my camera while attempting also hold onto the rather large flashlight, the light flickered on something alive on the cave floor.  I immediately scanned the light back to what I had seen to discover 2 little black dogs!!  They lived in the cave!!

I sighed a sigh of relief upon seeing them as I called them over for a pat, but then had another second of slight panic as I wondered whether they could be rabid!  I mean, bats can carry rabies, bats live in caves and who knew whether the dogs had been vaccinated or if anyone actually took care of these dogs…  Luckily however they were very friendly and showed no signs of being rabid and quite frankly their presence made it easier to be the only one in the cave.  Because surely if some crazy creature crawled out of some crevice to attack me, they would bark first to alert me, right?? 😉

I carried along the length of the cave past the first reclining Buddha and to my surprise found a second next to a series of about a dozen large Buddha’s in seated position.  Along to the right of the seated Buddha’s was another walkway that led to another large area where tons of visitors had stacked rocks in a variety of patterns, making their mark to show they were there.  And in the very back of this last large room sat yet another Buddha watching over the whole show.

I spent probably twenty minutes (it’s not THAT large a cave) walking around and searching for various other avenues to explore while listening to the nothing sound of caves, linked in with little chitters from bats above every now and again.  I will say my favorite thing about caves is the nothingness.  There is no sound most of the time and when the lights are turned off, you could hold your hand an inch in front of your face and still not see it.  There is such a peace about caves that is so very hard to find anywhere else and being back in the environment again was so very delightful.

As I headed out of the cave, my two little protectors followed.  At the entrance I noticed that indeed there was dog food scattered about the entrance around two blue dog bowls (I hadn’t noticed this detail before) but I also noticed there didn’t seem to be any water source for them.  As one of the dishes was empty, I poured it full with water.  One seemed to be quite thirsty, the other not so much so again it was a good sign that they were being taken care of somehow.

I headed back to the ground floor as the dogs chose to remain behind and wait for the next cave guests.  Back on solid ground I visited the actual Wat of Ao Noi.  The Cave is simply where there are several Buddha statues, but the actual Wat isn’t in the cave, yet decoratively set along the base of the cave hill near a pond, the ocean and a monk community.  After visiting the Wat, I headed back toward my guesthouse back in Prachuap, stopping along the way at a very delicious (I should have gotten the name!!) restaurant with some of the best khao pad gai (chicken fried rice) I’d tasted anywhere.

I was quite shocked to learn that the whole trip only took me about 5 hours or so, including a leisure lunch!  I am generally quite a fast walker by nature, but even this surprised me!  One not so good outcome from having walked as far and as fast as I had, however was my feet.  It had been a long time since I’d actually worn my Keens and by the time all was said and done with the walking for the day, I’d developed quite a large blister on the bottom of my foot.  Luckily it hadn’t popped, but I wasn’t so sure the same could be said after the walk we had planned for the next day at Khao Lommuak…

On to Hiking Khao Lommuak

Back to Thailand

“Ticklet”

This is the story of Piglet, who I lovingly also call “Ticklet”.  Since I’ve been here she has been one of the four (now five) porch dogs who live on the porch of the volunteer house, just across the street from the Thai Animal Sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi.  Piglet used to live in the sanctuary, as the rest of the porch dogs did, but once better chose to live outside of the gates of the sanctuary, on the street and porch, free to roam around as they choose.

What makes Piglet more interesting however is how fearful she is of humans.  She loves being around us, but won’t let anyone touch her.  There have been a few occasions however where she has allowed myself and other volunteers to scratch and pet her, but the events are VERY few and far between as she skitters away after a pat or two.  When we are away for a bit we are always greeted by her with a friendly face and tail wagging, and she always approaches us as if she wants a pat, but then retreats when we get too close.  She even accompanies us to the market or other destinations we walk to but again always just far enough away from us so we can’t touch her.

Piglet came to the sanctuary as a puppy, the sole survivor of her entire family.  The woman who opened the sanctuary here got word of a family of dogs (a mother and several puppies) who were going to be poisoned by their human owners because they didn’t want to care for them… She rushed to the site where they were to find the mother dog killed by a machete, and all the puppies except piglet dead by poison.  Piglet herself was attacked by a machete in an attempt to kill her but thankfully was rescued.  Knowing her past, it’s no wonder she doesn’t trust people.

When I first came here she was absolutely covered along her back, between her toes and on her chest with ticks (hence why I nicknamed her Ticklet).  The nasty and huge blood suckers were so prevalent that you could see them sticking off of her from a distance and every time she sat on the porch and scratched, at least one or two would fall off her.  Since no one could touch her, the continuous debate on what to do about her tick situation went on.  We tried several times to catch her with a net with no success.  I once was able to slightly distract her with treats in one hand, and as she ate I brought my other hand around with Spot-On and was able to get a drop on her before she figured out the scheme and went running away, spilling the rest of the Spot-On in the street.

It was obvious that we had to sedate her fully in order to really get in and pick all the ticks off.  We even joked about how, when she was finally under, we would each take turns cuddling her and taking pictures with her since we knew we would never get the chance again, lol!  Trouble was, I think she heard us…  You see, Ticklet is also tremendously smart.  So while we sat on the porch in the evenings discussing various things to do, I’m sure she heard when we came up with the plan to put Diazepam (sleeping pills) in some food to make her drowsy, then stab her with a syringe of Xylazine to put her completely out so we could pick off the ticks.

The day finally came when our plan was to come into action!  Several five milligram Diazepam pills were purchased to do the trick and she readily took the bait.  The pills (about 4 in the first try) were hidden in a bowl of wet dog food that was consumed at a very fast pace.  We sat and waited for her to sleep, but while she did doze a bit, she never fully lost her vigilance.  Another bowl was offered with three more pills, but still nothing happened.  Yet another bowl was offered as we thought to ourselves how ridiculous and amazing it was that she still wasn’t sleepy enough to approach!  After a total of about ten pills, she still didn’t show any signs of drowsiness!!  She did however decide to take a walk…

Figuring she was finally feeling drowsy, but being smart enough not to fall asleep in front of us, she was probably trying to move elsewhere so she could actually fall asleep without threat of us stabbing her with a full dose of sleeping aid.  So of course we had to follow.  She walked down the block and into a large area of pure jungle where she sniffed and walked leisurely to find the right spot.  She never did actually lay down however, just sniffed here and there as if she was interested in doing so.  Frankly I think she was really just having a laugh at us!

It started to look promising however as she looked a bit drowsy at one point, but the second we went to make a move toward her through the jungle she was off again running in and out of various jungle in the yards of the neighbors down the street.  We continued to follow at a distance, determined not to lose her!  The whole event ended with her walking (quite alert) right back onto the property of the volunteer house.  She never did fall asleep even once during the whole ordeal!  Funnily enough however, (and maybe it was just that the temperature at night began to drop) after that day Ticklet turned back into Piglet as the ticks began to fall off her body on their own…  Personally I think that the ten milligrams of Diazepam, which seemingly had no effect on Piglet, actually worked to put all the ticks on her body to sleep thereby making them drop off on their own, lol!!

It’s been several weeks since the event at this point, and Piglet is still tick-free (at least as far as we can see from the distance she allows).  Such a clever dog she is… I’m sure she heard us talking of taking pictures and cuddling with her while she was out that she simply funneled all the sleeping pills to the ticks instead just so she wouldn’t have to endure such torture of cuddling from us, lol!!

On to Thankful

Back to Thailand

How Silver Saved Shadow

This post has been a long time coming since the events I’m about to write about happened about five weeks ago, in the early days of volunteering at the Thai Animal Sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi.  When I first arrived, among all the other puppies at the Sanctuary, there were three especially tiny ones: Luna, Sky and Shadow who came in with their very sick and skeletal mom, Xena.  Xena, trying to simply survive herself never really took to the puppies and rarely fed nor bonded with them herself.  Lacking the very necessary antibodies that help puppies and human babies to build strong immune systems through mothers milk, the three puppies were very susceptible to illness.

Sadly, Luna succumbed to her weakened immune system one morning.  Sky and Shadow began to grow and seemed relatively healthy.  One day however, we woke to Sky looking suddenly terrible.  Her face blew up to twice her normal size and her breathing was very labored.  Thinking it at first an allergy, she was given antihistamines to try to revert the allergy.  But they didn’t work.  Several days went by with no improvement as the vets debated what to do to try to help.  She passed away one evening and a necropsy was performed by the vets and some vet techs the next day.  What they discovered was that her lungs were shot.  She had developed infectious pneumonia that led to her demise.

Even though once she became symptomatic, she was separated from Shadow, a few days after her death Shadow’s bark, normally strong and at times annoying, became gruff and sounded like a bark from a dog that had developed emphysema.  One vet thought it was just because he had been barking non-stop the night before and had given himself a sore throat.  But upon further investigation Shadow’s head, just as Sky, began to swell.  Since he showed the same symptoms as Sky, and since we learned that Sky suffered from infectious pneumonia, appropriate courses of action were taken to properly treat Shadow.

Within a couple of days however, yet again nothing seemed to help.  Shadow became worse and worse struggling with each breath for tiny bits of oxygen.  Normally plump to the point of looking like a dog with a gopher belly, his belly shrunk inward with every breath, collapsing on his body, revealing each rib and bony hips.  His eyes told the story of his struggle most of all.  Round and dark they gazed up at us with his head extended straight forward in an effort to breath better, pleading to us for help.

On the third or fourth day after no signs of improvement and his health continuing to spiral toward death, as Jo and I sat on the porch discussing what else could possibly help, I thought of the bottle of Colloidal Silver my mom had given me for my travels to stave off any potential illness.  Colloidal Silver kills over 650 viruses and bacteria.  At the point we were at, nothing else was helping and it certainly wouldn’t hurt him to try the Silver.  I first researched whether it was safe to give to pets and found out it was.  While my bottle of Silver was a bit more concentrated than the recommended dosage for dogs, again at that point it was worth a shot.

As Jo held him, I squirt several drops in his mouth, then prepared a little pillow with lavender oil sprinkled on it (another thing I read about that helps with breathing as I researched the Silver) to put in his little carrier crate where he slept.

The next day, Shadow was alert and breathing better.  Though not 100%, every day after the morning I gave him Silver he continued to improve.  Within the week, he began to bark again; rough and course at first, then strong and healthy with bite 🙂

Today, Shadow is alive and well turning into a beautiful young dog full of energy and spark!  Some here don’t believe the Silver had anything to do with his turn around in health, but I do.  Traditional Western medicines did nothing over several days of treatment to get him feeling better, rather he got worse.  But after one dose of Silver, he began to improve.  Again some could argue it was complete coincidence.  I’m a believer however and in my opinion, Shadow is the proof!

On to “Ticklet”

Back to Thailand

Spay Camp and Elephants

Part of what the Animal Shelter does here, aside from the everyday free care and treatment of animals, is to go to neighboring villages and monasteries to spay and neuter dogs and cats of the area.  These spay camps (as we call them) are great opportunities not only to get a day out and away from the everyday tasks of running a shelter, but also to better the community so animal populations don’t run amok and also provides a way for surrounding villages to get to know who we (the animal shelter) are so they can feel more confident about coming to us if ever needed.

Dr. Mays set up several camps for us, two running on consecutive days and then two more for the following week.  Though I have had experience in basic horse care/vet skills, dogs and cats are a different beast.  I had no experience in giving shots, IVs, prepping animals for surgery, etc.  The spay camp I attended quickly changed all that very quickly for me however 🙂

We set off around 10 to a nearby monastery about 30 or so kilometers away (myself, Jo, Nyzil and J. (the vets)) and arrived about a half hour later to an absolutely serene and beautifully peaceful monastery nestled off the road among gentle slopes and lush vegetation.  We were greeted by residents of the monastery and were shown to a large covered car port where we began to set up two tables for surgery.  Since this was my first go round with spays, I was mainly just taking instruction on how to set up the table and basically aped Jo (who is well seasoned with spay camps) asking about a trillion questions along the way.

I was paired with J., the newest vet on the team, and Jo was with Nyzil.  I will admit I was at first a bit reluctant about how J. and I would work as a team because we had several miscommunications that led to many frustrations in times before.  I don’t know what it was exactly that happened however in the first few minutes of setting up the camp.  To this day I still can’t pin it exactly.  But what I do know is that as the table was set and the first two cats were starting to doze into a deep sleep in preparation for the surgery, something just clicked with J. and I.  It wasn’t spoken, it just happened and suddenly I began to understand how she thought and worked.

She taught me how to shave the cats, how to give injections, tricks on how to tell whether the animal was starting to come out of their slumber, how to check the heart rate and much more.  We worked fabulously together and by the end of the day, after a lovely lunch provided to us by the monastery residents, we had banged out 8 cat spays.  Well, in all honesty one of the cats whom we tagged as being female turned out to be male after failing to find the uterus!  Hey now, we all make mistakes!  No judging!! 😉

We finished about 3pm, packed up and headed out.  Since it was still relatively early and we had not received any news from the shelter about needing to return immediately, we decided to check out the Khao Laem National Park, just a few kilometers down the road.  The park boasts a nature trail several kilometers long with 9 different waterfalls and a rather impressively large tree.  We all set off for the hike and crossed the river about 250 meters in to see the tree, but when we crossed back over, Jo broke one of her flip-flops making it basically impossible for us to hike any further.  We instead opted to swim in the river for a bit then made our way back to the car.  The day was still young however so we decided to head off to a village Nyzil knew about that had elephants!

The turning for the village was only about 10km from Sangkhlaburi, but getting to the village required quite a bit of off-roading and a few minutes of scary grounds to drive across.  The dirt road kept splitting and though Nyzil was navigating, every now and again he’d say out loud “I’m not sure this is the right way because we are supposed to be heading toward the mountains”, lol!!

Luckily he did get us to the right place and my oh my, what a beautiful little village it was!!  Nestled at the base of a mountain, across the river on a rather shady yet sturdy bamboo bridge lay a magnificent quiet little community full of life of all kinds.  Nyzil had been there before on a previous spay camp and even recognized several of the dogs he’d operated on by the little notches left in their ears.  No one in the village spoke even a word of english and of course none of us knew the word for elephant in Thai, so we were left to a game of charades.  Correction: we actually left the game of charades to Nyzil who proceeded to try to act out what an elephant looked like to the locals all while repeating the word “elephant?”.  It was seriously quite amusing to watch and I’m sure the villagers were probably playing dumb for a bit just to keep watching him make impressions, lol!!

We finally found one villager who acquiesced to knowing what we were trying to get to and he led us the way.  We walked through a rubber plantation…  Here I have to stop because I had no idea that rubber is made from tree sap!!!  There were hundreds of trees lined and tapped with a little collection basket for the sap and when I was told it was a rubber plantation, I just kept repeating “rubber???  As in rubber tires??” because I’d just no idea that’s where rubber came from.  I just assumed it was all a petrochemical production!  Just goes to show you learn something new every day:)

Moving on, we walked past the rubber plantation following the sound of a distant bell along a wee path.  Our guide then started off the path through the field to which Jo wasn’t able to walk on (no shoes) so she headed on the path just to explore while myself, Nyzil and J. followed our guide.

The sound of the bell grew louder and louder and a few minutes later, up ahead in the bushes enjoying a meal of various natural vegetation stood Moosa!!  What an absolutely BEAUTIFUL creature!!!  She wasn’t scared of humans as she worked in the village but when not working she had the run of the land, going where she pleased and had only a rope with a bell around he neck so she could be found when needed.

I had never touched an elephant before.  Had only fed them cucumbers and other veggies when in Ayutthaya.  This was how I’d wanted to experience them though.  In the wild, free from cages and tourists, no forced tricks or contraptions on her back to give tourists rides, no sticks with sharp hooks at the end to make her go one way or another, simply living free.  I couldn’t stop petting her and telling her how beautiful she was!!  We spent probably a good half hour with her as she continued to nibble then said our goodbyes and headed back to the path.  Interestingly enough our timing was just right as Jo was also returning from her walk along the path and she too had spotted the other elephant of the village down the way.

The sun was starting to set at this point and we were all getting hungry, so we set off for another spot along the way back to Sangkhlaburi for some dinner.  The Nature Club, a hotel and activities center only about 5km from the town was where we chose to stop.  It too is set in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and a rather large lake.  We had a few drinks and food, then headed home.  The days activities and bonding that occurred throughout the day between the four of us was unexpected but absolutely amazing.  That day is now one of my fondest memories of Thailand.  It was truely a day I think we all came away feeling absolutely blessed and thankful.

On to The “Bum Gun”

Back to Thailand

Power of a Howl

There is something so magical about the sound of dogs howling in unison.  I don’t know the exact reason for why a howl begins or the exact purpose of a howl but I do know it must have a hand somewhere in bonding dogs.  Whatever the reason, the power of it is undeniable.

Usually it begins with sounds of a scuffle.  One dog having overstepped their boundaries or another simply having a bad day.  The fight breaks out and the thought goes through my mind every time whether to rush to the enclosure where the scuffle broke out and try to intervene.  Somehow like magic however the sounds of thrashing and growling slowly turn into a howl.  Not from either of the fight participants, but from a nearby dog.  The sound of one howl turns into three, then seven, then eleven until within just a few seconds every dog (including those who were previously fighting) stops what they are doing to join in.

It reminds me of 101 Dalmatians where the dogs are sending messages across the town because it begins in our shelter and all the dogs join in for the song, it then starts to spread across the shelter like a gentle wind eventually infecting the neighboring street dogs to join in as well.  Where the howl began turns silent as peace settles back into each dog and the echo of howls continues on away from the origin until finally silence descends all around.  The after howl silence is so serene.

Fights I’ve witnessed in person are often broken up by us throwing water on the animals just to get them snapped out of what they were doing for a split second.  It only works for that split second however and you have to get in between them before they jump right back into their fight.  They hold grudges for a while even when separated.  Though my instinct always works toward reaching for the nearest water bowl, I often wonder if instead I should simply start howling myself to see if it catches on to break up the fight peacefully.  Fights never restart after a good howl.

The community dog howl is a sound I’ve come to absolutely adore.  I must admit I’ve joined in myself on full moon nights just for the heck of it, probably freaking out passersby, but I’m not much of one to care what others think of me anyway:)  I will admit it is annoying when they break out in song at 3am, first thing in the morning, just before bed when you are trying your hardest to sleep, or any other random time when you are simply praying for silence, yet it’s still one of my favorite sounds.  Or maybe it’s just the peaceful silence that comes after the howl…

On to Modern Bangkok

Back to Thailand

One for the Dogs

For this post, I just wanted to put up some pictures of a few of the wonderful dogs at the sanctuary.  Enjoy the pictures:)

Noodles sleeping in his favorite position:

Noodles
Noodles Favorite Sleeping Position

Piglet eyeballing me nervously (she won’t let anyone touch her but loves being a porch dog).

Piglet
Piglet

Puppy playtime with Shadow, Sky, Bo, Bella and Serena

Puppy Playtime
Puppy Playtime

Bo pinning down Sky… Notice Bo is pinning another down with only 3 legs:)

Bo Pinning Sky
Bo Pinning Sky

Shadow having a lick

Shadow
Shadow

Bella with her cone

Bella
Bella

Bo seeking attention

Sky getting the big bad shade

 

Sky
Sky

Blind, old Wiley with his tiger print wrapped tail

Wiley
Wiley

Xena relaxing

Xena
Xena

Everyone wanting attention

Xena, Xyla & Nunu
Xena, Xyla & Nunu

Bang having a stretch

Bang
Bang

Wilma (lost the use of her back legs in a car crash)

Bang and Blaze chilling

Blaze & Bang
Blaze & Bang

Crash (who also lost use of his back legs during… well, a crash)

Gizmo (can actually use his back legs, but chooses not to.  He bit me once just above the knee and took out a large chunk.  He really didn’t mean to though, he was aiming for the dog I was carrying but since he can’t jump just ended up getting me instead, lol!)

On to Power of a Howl

Back to Thailand

Sangkhlaburi New Year’s: Dog Version

I figured it was only fair that since I gave my own version of how things went on New Year’s for us humans, that I should also give an account of how New Year’s went for the dogs.

I can say right now that it wasn’t at all pleasant for them… And honestly in hindsight, we probably should have given them all a Valium New Year’s Eve.  We all know how sensitive dogs ears are and even though the festivities were going on in town, about a kilometer from where we are, it didn’t make any sort of difference to them as they still heard all the activity as if it was going on in their enclosures. And they made sure to let us know the following day how upset they had been… But I’m getting ahead.

The day started as normal, wake, drink water, eat some kibble, nap time, bark at some people walking by, nap time, get up and stretch, nap time, potty break, nap time, join in on a walk with the sanctuary dogs, nap time, play time, water, nap, dinner.

For the dogs in the sanctuary, that was the end of their day.  For the four porch dogs, they joined us for our walk over to Sai and Charlie’s place.  They had to stay outside however since they have their own dogs.  When we finished dinner, none of the dogs were waiting for us which was very unusual.  As we walked past our house on the way to town only two dogs, Noodles and Balua were on the porch.  Balua already looked freaked out by the distant booms going on around town so we put him in my room, which I share with a long-term volunteer.  We left the door open a bit to give Noodles the option to go in if he chose to later and headed to town.  Piglet and Nipper were nowhere to be found.

They are street dogs after all, so while there was concern for them, especially with it being New Year’s, we figured they would make their way back.  Once myself and the other volunteer came back to the house after the town festivities, we found Balua still in my room curled in a corner.  He had somehow managed to wedge himself under my backpack and even stranger had clothes piled on him too…  No idea how he did that!  Noodles had also let himself in and was standing in the center of the room waiting to be let out.  Piglet and Nipper were still MIA.  About an hour later Piglet showed back up.  Then the rest of the volunteers showed up to continue to party at the house.

The next day Nipper was still missing.  The dogs in the sanctuary had clearly not had a good and restful night sleep as fight after fight broke out with just about every dog involved in one and another.  Preparing and serving breakfast was the hardest task of the day since most of the time was spent breaking up one fight or another.  To try to settle the dogs, kibble was given in grand mass.  We probably overfed every dog, but it at least calmed them down and distracted them enough to stop their fights for a half hour or so.

As the day progressed, the tensions were still high.  You could literally just feel it in the air and practically cut it with a knife.  I can’t say I blame the dogs for their behaviors.  But I will say it was one of the toughest days working in the sanctuary!  It’s literally taken about 3 days to get the dogs back into a regular routine and feeling calm again.  Poor puppies!!!

Nipper didn’t even come back on New Year’s Day.  He returned the 2nd with a bit of a limp in his right front leg… Lord knows what he got into or where he was for almost 36 hours.  I’m just glad he made it back with only a minor limp!!

On to Sangkhlaburi

Back to Thailand